SPHINGIDAE of Australia
Hawk Moths
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley






The SPHINGIDAE are called Hawk Moths because they can fly very fast, and can also hover in flight. They use this latter ability to sip nectar from flowers using their long Haustellum (tongue), when they fly in the evening. They are large moths with long narrow fore wings, and smaller hind wings. When at rest, they hold their wings over the body like a tent.

Many Hawk Moth Caterpillars are easily recognised by the dorsal horn on the last segment. It looks quite dangerous, but is quite harmless. Many of the caterpillars are brightly coloured, with diagonal stripes and eyespots. The caterpillars grow to a length of 5 cms. or more. When disturbed, they commonly rear up with their anterior segments arched and their head facing the disturbance. The scientific name of the family is derived from this sphinx-like posture. Uniquely, keys have been published for identifying many of the caterpillars. Keys for 21 species of Australian SPHINGIDAE that attack ornamental plants are described in :

Max S. Moulds,
Larval food plants of hawk moths (LEPIDOPTERA: SPHINGIDAE) affecting garden ornamentals in Australia,
General and Applied Entomology, Volume 16 (1984), pp. 57-64.
Keys for 11 species that attack commercial crops are described in : Max S. Moulds,
Larval food plants of hawk moths (LEPIDOPTERA: SPHINGIDAE) affecting commercial crops in Australia,
General and Applied Entomology, Volume 13 (1981), pp. 69-80.
The caterpillars pupate in the soil or amongst litter at the base of the foodplant. The pupae are enclosed in a thin cocoon or have no cocoon at all.

Some common species of the 75 named species of SPHINGIDAE occuring in Australia are:

Acosmeryx anceus
Acosmeryx miskini

Agrius convolvuli : Convolvulus Hawk Moth
Agrius godarti : Godart's Hawk Moth

Ambulyx dohertyi
Ambulyx wildei

Angonyx excellens
Angonyx papuana

Cephonodes hylas : Coffee Hawk Moth
Cephonodes janus
Cephonodes kingii : Gardenia Hawk Moth
Cephonodes picus

Cizara ardeniae : Coprosma Hawk Moth

Coenotes arida
Coenotes eremophilae

Coequosa australasiae
Coequosa triangularis : Double-headed Hawk Moth

Daphnis dohertyi
Daphnis hypothous
Daphnis moorei
Daphnis placida
Daphnis protrudens

Eupanacra splendens

Gnathothlibus eras : White-brow Hawk Moth

Hippotion boerhaviae
Hippotion brennus
Hippotion celerio : Vine Hawk Moth
Hippotion johanna
Hippotion rosetta
Hippotion scrofa : Coprosma Hawk Moth
Hippotion velox

Hopliocnema brachycera : Desert Hawk Moth

Hyles livornicoides : Australian Striped Hawk Moth

Langia tropicus

Leucomonia bethia

Macroglossum alcedo
Macroglossum corythus
Macroglossum dohertyi
Macroglossum heliophila
Macroglossum hirundo
Macroglossum insipida
Macroglossum joannisi
Macroglossum micacea
Macroglossum nubilum
Macroglossum prometheus
Macroglossum rectans
Macroglossum tenebrosa
Macroglossum vacillans

Meganoton rufescens

Nephele hespera
Nephele subvaria

Psilogramma argos : Argos Hawk Moth
Psilogramma casuarinae
Psilogramma exigua
Psilogramma increta
Psilogramma menephron : Australasian Privet Hawk Moth
Psilogramma nebulosa
Psilogramma papuensis

Synoecha marmorata

Tetrachroa edwardsi

Theretra celata
Theretra indistincta
Theretra inornata
Theretra latreillii
Theretra margarita
Theretra nessus : Yam Hawk Moth
Theretra oldenlandiae : Impatiens Hawk Moth
Theretra queenslandi
Theretra radiosa
Theretra silhetensis
Theretra tryoni
Theretra turneri

Zacria vojtechi

Further reading:

Rodolphe Rougerie , Ian J. Kitching, Jean Haxaire, Scott E. Miller, Axel Hausmann, & Paul D. N. Hebert,
Australian Sphingidae DNA Barcodes Challenge Current Species Boundaries and Distributions,
Volume 9, Number 7 (2014) :e101108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101108

Australian Butterflies
Australian Moths

(updated 31 May 2014, 27 November 2015, 29 February 2016)